Thursday, November 10, 2016

Living and Working in Afghanistan


It takes a certain kind of person to live and work in Afghanistan. I’ve been doing it for four years. I
work as a property manager. I supervise staff who care for facilities, equipment, and vehicles for a private contractor who serves the U.S. government.
Kabul Street by Ilya Varlamov (Flickr)

We live in a secure camp, like a compound with walls and gates. We work there, eat there, and sleep there. While we are safe, we get out very little. Nights are spent mostly watching television, reading, writing, and communicating with family. It can be boring and gets tiresome quickly.

The hardest part is being away from family. Life is completely different here because we don’t have family. We can’t go out anytime. We can’t go out to movie theatres, bars, clubs, etc. Because you are away from the regular way of life, you truly miss it.

What we do is important because we provide an essential service. I work mostly with Americans and Brits, but we also have local Afghans who work with us. Some live here but most go home at night.
We have a MWR center on the camp which provides support and leisure services to camp residents, including contractors like myself. (MWR stands for morale, welfare, and recreation.) Included are a Post Exchange, coffee shops, and church services for all faiths.

Western style home in Kabul 
Some living and work places are Afghan-free, because they don’t allow Afghan people. Ours is not like that. Afghan people work and live in our camp. However, I’m not allowed to go to Afghan homes for security reasons. I’ve been invited to weddings and other events, but can’t go. It’s disappointing. Life would be much easier if we could mingle freely with the Afghan people. I have not been able to visit the mosques or tourist sites in the city.

While Afghans are typically friendly and hospitable, they also may be very private. Their homes may be surrounded by a wall, with only one entrance that leads to a greeting room and visiting room. When male guests visit, women are not present. Men are considered the breadwinners and take pride in providing for their families, including their aged parents. Women, however, play an important role in the household and may have control over domestic affairs and finances. Afghan women are treated with great respect. This may not be true with western women who Afghan men may regard as promiscuous. Even western women, who are dressed conservatively, may be jostled or touched in public.

See more about Afghan culture at  

Compound - ABC Photo 

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